Demography, wild harvest patterns and trade of culturally important species : priorities for management and conservation

Elliott, Daniela Dutra
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2014]
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We know very little about the impacts of harvest on populations of epiphytic plants, the species that depend on them on the canopy, and their ecosystems. The impacts of orchid collecting depend on the life history of the species, the type of collecting being conducted, and socioeconomic factors surrounding communities. In this dissertation, I detail the population biology, structure, and dynamics of populations for orchid species. In addition, I assess the cultural and socioeconomic patterns that influence harvest in order to fill knowledge gaps on tropical orchid species as well as to provide accurate metrics for the development of sustainable management plans in areas where overharvest is likely to occur. I documented the cultural and socioeconomic patterns of epiphyte use and trade in a market setting. Market studies can provide information of what is happening over a wide range of environments across long distances offering valuable information for conservation. I documented 19 species being sold in the market and a high volume of orchids being traded. There was a clear seasonal trend for orchid sales with two seasons identified. There was a strong cultural component to harvest with plants being part of major cultural and religious celebrations. I also documented that different orchid species are harvested using different methods. The type of harvest that was documented here offers valuable information on what is happening in the natural populations. In the demographic study, the projected population growth rate (λ) for P. karwinskii differed among the three study populations and this is likely due to differences in harvest pressure. Populations of P. karwinskii that experience high-medium harvest pressures are declining and are expected to continue to decline if circumstances do not change. By contrast, the population that has the lowest harvest pressure is projected to continue to grow slowly over the long term (λ is significantly greater than 1). My results suggest that sustainable harvest can be possible if less than 30% of flowering pseudobulbs are harvested per year from large adult plants in a population. However, this assumes harvest from only the adult plants (the largest pseudobulb > 19 cm) and not from any of the smaller sizes, even if they flower. A ban on orchid harvest on the national level has clearly not stopped the harvest of wild orchid species. The high volume of orchids traded combined with the available literature on orchid demography related to harvest suggests that harvest at those levels documented here is not likely sustainable. However, results suggest that lower levels may be sustainable, and that this could be achieved if communities had rights to harvest and therefore an investment in the future. Wild orchid harvest could be complemented with propagation as seen in bromeliads. In addition, a change of climate, land-use, or other factors should also be taken into consideration when applying these results to management in the future.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2014.
Includes bibliographical references.
wild harvest patterns
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Theses for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (University of Hawaii at Manoa). Botany.
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